The 10 Best Chinese Food Restaurants in the Bay Area

The Year of the Ox begins on February 12, according to the Chinese zodiac, and the festival lasts until February 26. Why not celebrate with flavors and tastes from different regions of China at Bay Area restaurants?

House of Nanking

House of Nanking Golden Egg Pillows; photo courtesy of Chef Peter Fang, House of Nanking.

The Hunan fare from chef Peter Fang and his daughter, chef Cathy Fang (who also operate FANG in SoMa) draws crowds and long lines during non-Covid times and the restaurant is famous for scorning anyone who asks for a menu. Those in the know insist that the most popular dishes are worth asking for by name. Crispy sesame chicken is paired with glazed sweet potatoes, clear wonton soup is spiced up with fresh herbs and chili oil, and delicately fried crepes stuffed with vermicelli and egg are known as golden egg pillows. But the handcrafted house noodles tossed with black sesame sauce and chili are a must.

China Live

China Live Roasted Duck Peking Style; photo courtesy of China Live.

Known for their shen jian bao cooked in a paella pan, China Live delivers a modern interpretation of another northern Chinese favorite: Peking duck. Their version is basted with seasonal fruit glaze while cooking in a stone oven to ensure skin that shatters while delivering plenty of umami. The accompanying sesame pockets, sliced cucumbers, green onions and house made hoisin sauce seal the deal.

R&G Lounge

Perched on the edge of San Francisco’s Chinatown where Kearny melds into the Financial District, R&G Lounge is no stranger to fame. Anthony Bourdain (may he rest in peace) famously ate the salt and pepper crab and drank a lychee martini there on his Travel Channel show, “No Reservations” years ago. Seafood is the go-to at this Cantonese favorite (the lobster with garlic and scallions is a lively choice) and vegetarians gravitate towards dishes like the Vegetarian Goose, or tofu skin stuffed with sautéed wood ear mushrooms.

Mister Jiu’s

Chef Brandon Jew helps diners rethink what is possible for the expansive range of Chinese food at his San Francisco Chinatown restaurant. While the Marin Magazine staff is especially fond of the urchin-topped cheong fun, we found that the ginger and scallion bedecked Sizzling Black Cod and Mu Shu Mushrooms with Jew’s famous peanut butter hoisin sauce on the takeout menu achieve a fine balance between modern and traditional.

Peony Seafood Restaurant

Like many restaurants, Chinese or otherwise, Peony Seafood Restaurant is in danger of closing permanently due to the Covid crisis. Known for its banquet-size dining rooms, the restaurant in Oakland’s Chinatown is known for dumplings, buns and other dim sum delights, served from steaming carts on weekends. The fresh dim sum is the go-to order, according to food writer Anna Mindess, but kids and adults love the custard buns for their cute piggy faces.

Great China


At Berkeley’s Great China, the Peking duck arrives whole and deboned with skin impossibly glassine. Double skin salad is made to order by the experienced team from mung bean flour before it is lain atop vegetables, shrimp and calamari. Or try the handmade dumplings, stuffed with shrimp and scallops, pork, or vegetables. With a wine program awarded Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, a pairing suggested by co-owner and sommelier James Yu, makes the meal an experience to remember. 2190 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, greatchinaberkeley.com

Great Wall Chinese Restaurant

If pescatarian Chinese is your thing, Great Wall in Oakland’s Elmwood neighborhood has been the place to get it for 20-plus years. The huge menu focuses on seafood and vegetables and prepares dishes like lemon “chicken” to make them accessible for all. There are even options for no garlic or egg right on the menu’s ordering bar.

Yu Shang Mandarin Cuisine and Sushi Bar

Marin families flock to Yu Shang for its family-style service and the Japanese and Chinese-American-inclusive menu. That means platters of Mongolian Beef and Moo Goo Gai Pan are right at home next to plates of Salmon Teriyaki and Pork Tonaktsu.

Harmony Restaurant

Organic, wheat-free and peanut-free menu selections are a boon to many who stop in for the reliably fresh veggie dishes and sustainably-sourced seafood at Mill Valley’s Harmony. Local favorites, the Signature Beef and Signature Chicken, are part of their takeout menu and the fried rice includes slivers of BBQ pork for added richness.

Jennie Low’s Chinese Cuisine

Tucked into Novato’s Vintage Oaks Shopping Center near Target, Jennie Low’s dedicates an entire menu section to steaming and no-oil cookery. You will notice the flavors of garlic in the Spicy Broccoli and String Beans and the freshness of the chayote squash and pea sprouts in the Basil Prawns and that’s a good thing.


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Christina MuellerChristina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract PublishingSunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon SocietyPEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.